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Arugula: Kitchen Basics

Arugula in bowl1

Arugula saladArugula, young and tender, will have a nutty and slightly peppery flavor. Use arugula as a salad green alone or in combination with other greens.

In Italian salads, arugula is often combined with radicchio and paler lettuces. In the mesclun salads of Provence, arugula is one of the zestier greens mixed with baby lettuces and herbs. In California, baby arugula is often mixed with other baby greens.

Pear and arugula salad
Classic salad with pear, arugula or rocket leaves, shaved parmesan, and walnuts. Drizzled with olive oil.

Arugula Serving Suggestions

  • Arugula can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Use arugula as a seasoning in broths, salads, mayonnaise, sandwiches, potato salads, and pasta.
  • Arugula also is used as a sandwich filling, and whole arugula leaves make a tasty last-minute addition to potato and lentil soups.
  • For a taste of California cuisine: combine arugula, radicchio, diced red onion, chopped toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and a red wine vinaigrette.
  • The leaves can be lightly boiled or steamed and added to stir-fries or sautéed in olive oil and tossed with pasta.
  • Arugula flowers are edible and can be used to garnish salads.
  • Thoroughly wash arugula before using to remove grit or sand from the folds of the leaves.
Arugula on pasta
Pasta salad sprinkled with arugula and Parmesan

Arugula Flavor Partners

  • The taste of arugula has been described as nutty, tangy, peppery, and mustard sharp. That’s because as arugula matures its taste grows hotter. Mature arugula should be used with discretion.
  • Arugula has a flavor affinity for beets, goat cheese, mozzarella, nuts, olives, pancetta, pasta, roasted peppers, tomatoes, and vinaigrette.

Arugula Harvest Time

  • Arugula seed can be sown from spring to summer and is ready for harvest in four to five weeks. It grows just about anywhere but prefers moist, fertile soil. Since it grows well undercover, a harvest need never be far off.
  • Arugula comes to harvest in spring and again in late summer into autumn.
  • At the farmer’s market, you might find it under a few of its other names: garden rocket, rocket salad, rucchetta, rughetta, rucola (the Italian name), and roquette (the French name).
Choose leaves that are crisp and bright green.

How to Choose Arugula

  • Select arugula that is crisp and bright green.
  • Choose leaves that are young and tender, harvested before the plant has bloomed.
  • Avoid arugula that is limp or shows signs of yellowing or spotting.
    Avoid leaves that are slimy.

How to Store Arugula

  • Arugula can be loosely wrapped in a wet paper towel and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Wash just before using and dry thoroughly.

Arugula Nutrition

  • Arugula is rich in iron and vitamins A and C.
Arugula in garden
The longer arugula matures and soaks up the summer sun, the tangier it becomes.

About Arugula

  • The deep green arugula leaf is slender, elongated—to about 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) long– and multi-lobed; it can resemble an oak or dandelion leaf at varying stages of maturity.
  • Young arugula leaves—particularly those grown in a greenhouse with heavy irrigation—will be mild tasting.
  • The longer arugula matures and soaks up the summer sun, the tangier it becomes.
  • Late-season arugula can rival the hottest mustard; late summer arugula in Britain got the name “rocket salad” because the taste was nothing less than explosive.
  • Arugula is native to the Mediterranean region and Eastern Asia and has been in cultivation since ancient Roman times. Arugula was introduced to North America by Italian settlers.
  • The botanical name for arugula is Eruca sativa.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Arugula

How to Harvest Arugula

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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